We have talked about the various prayers that we utilize in service including the Barchu, the Shema, the Amidah, and the Mourners Kaddish. However when we start the service, we usually recite two or three other prayers, which we often do not recognize as prayers. I am speaking of course of the Psalms.
The Psalms or Tehillim (which means praises) are recited both collectively and individually, as the desire occurs to offer praise and thanksgiving to God; or alternatively, in times of crisis and need, as a form of supplication, and even as a venue to express regret for sin.
For time immemorial, whenever Jews found themselves in difficult situations, whether individually or communally, they would open up the Book of Psalms and use King David’s ageless poetic praises and supplications to beseech God for mercy.
So why should we recite the Psalms at the start of service?
The Psalms as stated earlier are a way to praise God when we ourselves run short on words. We use them to focus on different attributes of God:
- God’s goodness for us
- God’s protection over us
- God’s willingness to forgive us for our wrong doings.
So during service, we first start with singing and taking time to greet each other. Then we want to praise God and bring our focus on Him—so we recite Psalms.